What You Should Know About Pet Insurance
Owning a pet is a big responsibility. They're living beings and require a lot of care — including health care, which can be quite costly. Just like health insurance for humans, pet insurance can alleviate some of those expenses, but it requires some homework to figure out if it's worth the money. Here's what you should know about pet insurance before you lock down a policy.
First Things First
Before you look at pet insurance companies, check with your own insurance policy to see if it covers your dog, cat or other pets. Some employers offer a pet plan with a benefits package; if yours doesn't, your insurance provider may have a partnership with a pet insurance company. This may be your easiest route to gaining peace of mind about your pet's health.
Current State Of Health
The best time to look into pet insurance is when your pet is young and healthy, but it may not occur to you to get it until your pet has a serious problem that translates into a very costly trip to the vet. Pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions. For instance, urinary blockage is very common for male cats — in extreme situations, it can cause death. The illness is treatable, but it's something he has to be treated for the rest of his life once diagnosed. Pet insurance won't cover the treatment unless you secured a policy before the diagnosis and complications. That means if he ends up in the ER with another blockage, you're going to have to pay full price. After the initial trauma from the illness and the bill, you may decide pet insurance would cost more than it would save.
Age and breed both have a heavy bearing on cost when it comes to pet health insurance. You can insure older pets, but it might cost a little more and cover a little less. Costs also tend to increase with age. This is another area where you'll have to break out your calculator and weigh whether it costs more to maintain the policy or pay for treatments out of pocket. Specific breed may also increase the cost of pet insurance. Purebreds tend to cost more, but it's not quite like the difference between fine China and everyday dinnerware. The logic behind it is that some conditions and illnesses might be breed-specific. For instance, chronic superficial keratitis is a condition that can lead to blindness and is common in German Shepherds, but doesn't happen often with other breeds. Because these are known conditions, the insurance costs are different for different breeds. The size of your pet may also determine the cost of your policy and dogs generally cost more than cats.
Different insurance carriers have different criteria for coverage. While some breeds cost more to insure than others, some may not be covered at all. Make a list of your needs and get quotes from different companies to compare before you commit to one. Again, you have to weigh your cost versus benefit. In some cases it may cost you more to insure your pet over its lifetime than it would to pay for treatment ala carte. In that case you may want to set up a separate emergency savings account for your pet's healthcare to dip into for any unexpected expenses.